BURNS, TIGERS SURGE FORWARD
StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Wednesday, September 12, 2018
NAPPANEE – In the airtight world of Northern Lakes Conference boys soccer, any advantage is vital.
Warsaw took advantage of nearly all of those afforded by NorthWood in a 4-0 win Tuesday night.
A poor back pass by Nick Lechlitner towards his own goal was just the chance that one of the best closers in the area, Blake Burns, needed. Burns jumped the route and beat Panther keeper Luke Lingle to the ball, made one move and had no one between him and a 1-0 lead.
Burns again got into space just two minutes before the half, taking a long through ball and finding himself one-on-one with Lingle. A chip to the keeper’s right tickled the net for a 2-0 lead. It’s the type of chances a forward dreams of, and the types of mistakes that drives coaches insane.
“When you look at the guys that NorthWood have in the back, you want Blake running at them full speed and making them have to commit,” said Warsaw head coach Frank Courtois. “It’s a blessing to have that cheap one early, but we’ll take it on the road. To get four goals, hey, we’ll take it. We won’t have easy goals like this on the road any more.”
Countered NorthWood boss Brad Duerksen of the sloppy defensive coverages, “Our communication in the back was really off tonight. He beat us on the back of a couple of runs, and he’s a good scorer.”
The wiggle room on the scoreboard for the Tigers was more than enough for what has become one of the more stout defensive units in the state. Warsaw’s defensive line didn’t allow NorthWood a legitimate chance towards the goal until the 43rd minute when a through ball didn’t find anyone by Tiger keeper Harrison Mevis’ bored gloves. Mevis actually didn’t corral a NorthWood chance until the 50th minute when he caught a Panther cross without duress, and the junior netminder wouldn’t face a shot on goal in 74 minutes of work.
In all, Warsaw’s defense allowed just two NorthWood shots, both coming after the 75th minute and neither were threatening. The Tigers would pound 17 shots on target in all.
“Our midfielders going to our forwards, we are just not getting far enough forward into the attack,” Duerksen said. “That showed late in the game as well and I addressed that afterwards. We got back on our heels early and weren’t aggressive. When you play in the NLC, you’re playing four top-13 teams in the state, and when you make mistakes, those teams will make you play.”
Warsaw padded its lead in the 56th when a Mevis free kick was worked upfield and eventually to Jorge Rico, who did the rest. The final tally came on a free kick from well outside the penalty area by Payne Rager in the 74th minute. Rager’s shot soared and stayed high, fooling Lingle on its angle and bounding down under the crossbar. The deflection then hit the right post and was deemed over the line by the near side assistant referee.
That decision set off an ugly final six minutes, which included a red card penalty called on Skyler Duerksen for a tackle from behind on a breakaway, but then a dissension yellow on coach Duerksen for his reaction. NorthWood soon after was given another yellow to Kyle Luster for a poor tackle and even the ballboy was warned for his behavior.
Life in the NLC certainly comes with its pressures?
“I was glad that we didn’t get caught up in all of that,” Courtois said of the late-game fireworks. “It’s tough enough to play in the NLC, and being on the road, we just needed to come in here and get the job done. And get on the bus with the win and be done with it.”
Warsaw, which played its eighth game in 13 days, moves to 7-2-3 overall and 3-0-1 in the NLC with three matches to go against Goshen, Wawasee and the closer against Northridge. NorthWood drops to 4-4-1 overall and 1-3 in the NLC. The Panthers finish out against Goshen Thursday, then have Memorial and Plymouth on successive Tuesdays to wrap up.